Kids Crusaders Corner – Nick’s Adventure in Disney World – Part 3

Standard

Welcome back to the March edition of Kids Crusaders Corner. This month I will wrap up the last of my 3 part story that began in January regarding a solo trip that I took my son Nick on for his 16th birthday. (If you haven’t read the first two parts, please do, as it will help to make the story complete.)

Our adventures with traveling solo through Disney were truly that, adventures. In the first 2 articles you could see that we encountered a few obstacles that were “breathtaking” in a special sort of way and a lot of memorable events that occurred which, with no doubt in my mind, makes Disney the Magical place where dreams really do come true.

Part 1 of Nick’s Adventures in Disney;                                   Part 2 of Nick’s Adventures in Disney;

In last month’s article, I explained how the cast members at the Crystal Palace restaurant made Nick’s 16th birthday so unforgettable by giving him a life-sized stuffed animal Mickey Mouse (which I had to creatively find ways to navigate both my son in a wheelchair and this over-sized plush Mickey through the remainder of our day at the Magic Kingdom and back to the hotel.)

And just when you thought the fun had stopped since we were to be flying back home the next day, it had just begun all over again. Disney was absolutely amazing at making sure I had all of the help I needed getting our luggage, Nick with his custom wheelchair, the life sized “mouse” and myself to the airport the next day. Once at the airport, we checked our luggage at the JetBlue terminal counter. This left me somewhat free to once again navigate Nick through crowds with a very large mouse strapped to the front of his wheelchair. As clumsy as this sounded, I felt great pride in the fact that despite a few minor hiccups during our trip, it was an overall success and Nick had an amazing time.

The actual “fun” started when we had to go through the airport security checkpoint. Since Nick is non-ambulatory, he is always taken to a special spot in his wheelchair where he is “inspected”, while I go through the standard “empty all of your pockets, take off your shoes, place all bags on the x-ray conveyor belt” routine. I passed through that rather quickly and joined Nick to watch the somewhat comical routine that we always go through with the TSA agents when they try to “wand” him down. The wand always beeps. Always. Perhaps someday they will realize he is sitting in a metal framed wheelchair. And they are usually pretty good about giving up after changing out the wand 4 or 5 times before they are convinced that it is really just the wheelchair causing the “beeps”.

This particular time was different. Nick absolutely refused to let go of his birthday gift from Disney. A few of the TSA agents had tried to take Mickey away from Nick to place it through the x-ray scanner. This of course resulted in Nick becoming visibly upset, kicking and flailing his legs, making a lot of noise and drawing a lot of attention to where we were. I explained to the agents that because of Nick’s disability, he often has a difficult time with change. And even after I tried to explain to Nick that Mickey was just going through the machine to “have his picture taken” it was still a definite “no” in Nick’s mind. I explained multiple times that this was a gift from Disney to my son for his birthday and asked if they could just use the wand on the mouse instead of making my son more distraught. After waiting for an additional 30 minutes, we had someone from the TSA (I assumed it was a manager) come over to talk to Nick again. Nick was not changing his mind. After much debate about what to do about the mouse, TSA agreed to use the “wand” on the mouse so that it wouldn’t leave Nicks possession. But of course, because the mouse was so big, there were metal pieces in the ears to keep them formed and upright, which in turn caused Mickey to beep non-stop. Now we have the full attention of the TSA. I tried taking pictures but was asked to put my camera away. How many people would one assume that it would take to hand frisk a stuffed mouse? The answer? Too many. It was obvious to everyone that this was just a very large stuffed animal. That beeped. With the use of multiple wands. And it beeped in the same exact spot every single time. The ears!

Growing tired of this excitement, I once again explained and demonstrated how the ears could be moved into different positions (because of the metal wires inside). I was asked to sit down and let them “do their jobs”.  I sat in a chair nearby as I watched at least 4 TSA agents discussing how they should proceed. Confiscating Mickey was not going to be an option (at least not in my book). Out of sheer frustration I said (what I thought was under my breath) “I highly doubt Disney packed Mickey with any explosive devices”….oops. Note to self and others, think it but please do not actually SAY IT. Another hour before the questioning stopped. I had even taken my camera out to show them the pictures of when the mouse was actually given to Nick during dinner at the Crystal Palace. I think it was after seeing the pictures, and truly not knowing how to handle this that they either felt we were no longer a threat or they were tired of dealing with me.

So we cleared security with less than an hour to get to our gate and pre-board. Once again, we flew JetBlue (I cannot say enough good things about flying with their airline when you need any special assistance.) We were greeted with all smiles as we pre-boarded the plane. Nicks wheelchair gets gate checked at the door of the aircraft so that it will be waiting for us at our next destination. JetBlue had seated us in the very first row (always so helpful) and I tucked Nick into the window seat where he could comfortably lean and keep himself in an upright position. The pilot was super friendly and talking to Nick about his birthday trip and what a special gift Disney had given him. (He had no idea that it was about to get even more special.) I buckled Mickey into the seat next to Nick and then buckled myself into the aisle seat. I laid my head back, thoroughly exhausted as the other passengers were starting to board the aircraft. Nick was so happy to be on the plane, as was I. We were to fly from Orlando into New York at the JFK airport. Once we were to land there, I was going to have to transfer Nick back into his wheelchair and change flights 2 gates down that would take us to our final destination, Rochester. I knew this, but also knew I had a couple of hours to nap and regain some strength before having to do all that.

As the plane was filling to capacity, the pilot came out and asked if he could talk to me. Nick was already starting to fall asleep leaned up against the window, clutching Mickey Mouse. The pilot explained that the flight we were on going into New York was a sold out flight, meaning Mickey could not stay strapped in the seat next to Nick. At this point I felt my eyes filling up with tears as I explained the horror we had endured at the security checkpoint and how important this was to Nick. The pilot came out and talked to Nick himself. He asked if we could “let Mickey sleep right above his head where the jackets and pillows were.” Nicks said no. But then when I asked and said Mickey would sleep better there until we got home he said yes. Finally. The problem escalated when Mickey, no matter how much we squished him, would not fit into the overhead compartment. The pilot asked me about gate checking him with the wheelchair. That was not an option since we had promised Nick that once the airplane was up in the air he could have Mickey back in his lap.

So, while the rest of the passengers had buckled in, and listened to the pre-flight safety instructions, the pilot and I were still trying to figure out what to do with the mouse. The pilot asked Nick if it would be ok if Mickey helped him fly the plane. Nick thought this was funny and said yes. Relief. We got the mouse into the cockpit; I snapped a quick picture of him in the pilots chair and then went back to my seat. The pilot said they had a “jump-seat” in the cockpit that he could secure him in there. I should mention this was a late flight from Orlando into New York and we were already 40 minutes delayed because of the mouse dilemma.

With the cabin door shut, and every seat on the plane full (with the exception of one single seat at the very back of the aircraft) we were finally able to take off. Before the plane had even pushed away from the gate, the pilot made an overhead announcement that he was sorry for the delay but that we would be leaving shortly and assured everyone that connecting flights were aware of “our” delay and that nobody would miss connecting flights. I was now buckled in next to Nick and there was a woman reading her book in the aisle seat where I had originally sat. She seemed totally oblivious as to anything that had been going on, engrossed in her book.

I knew there was a problem when the pilot reappeared to speak to me again. Apparently the mouse was too big in the cockpit and was in the way of some of their controls. He did tell me there was one single seat at the very back of the aircraft and he was going to attempt to have the flight attendant take Mickey back there and strap him in without Nick seeing. Fail. He saw and then his world fell apart. He cried and was kicking the wall in front of him while repeatedly saying “Mickey, Mickey”. Everyone was so tired at this point and it seemed like we had run out of options when the engrossed book lady looked up and asked if there “was a problem”. Yeah, just a slight one. So I explained to her what she had obviously not paid any attention to for the previous 40 minutes. I buckled Mickey into the seat next to Nick, which made him much happier and told the pilot I would take the seat at the back of the aircraft. I just asked that the flight crew come to get me immediately if Nick needed anything or seemed upset.

The pilot preferred I didn’t do that, but options were not plentiful at this point. “Book lady” had resumed her reading and as I went to pass by her I politely asked her to alert the flight crew if she thought my son needed me. She asked where I was going (again she had missed another important part of why we were delayed) and she nonchalantly said, “Would it be easier for everyone if I just took the seat in the back? I don’t mind. I’m traveling alone and just want to read.”

The pilot thanked her as did every passenger on the aircraft. I kept saying how sorry I was, but the pilot was so nice. He said “don’t worry about it. Everything has a way of working out.”

We finally arrived in New York well after midnight. Nick was sound asleep against the window with his mouse. I sat quietly and watched all of the passengers get off the plane for connecting flights. Knowing that we would be the last to get off the plane, I just waited. The pilot was thanking everyone for their patience and saying whatever pilots say as people leave. I was just way too tired to care. His wheelchair was waiting outside the cabin door when the pilot looked over and saw it. He looked at Nick sound asleep and said “oh, I forgot all about Nick. Don’t wake him just yet. Where are you flying to?” I told him Rochester, but our connecting flight was 2 terminals down. The plane we were currently on was heading towards Syracuse. He told me to let Nick sleep while he made a quick phone call. He came back and said that he just changed flight plans with the other aircraft. He decided to let Nick sleep and he would fly our plane into Rochester and the other plane that we were supposed to take would switch and fly passengers into Syracuse. I looked at him and wiped my tears away as I thanked him. He said it wasn’t a problem since neither one of them was from this area and a hotel to them was just a hotel. He said it was an easy enough switch. I asked him about the 50 passengers that had already made their way to the connecting Rochester flight. He said they were being sent back to our aircraft. I sat in the seat waiting for 50 angry passengers to return. Instead, as people re-boarded the aircraft their faces softened as they saw Nick sleeping soundly with his friend Mickey (now fully understanding the wheelchair at the gate belonged to him.) My faith in humanity restored.

Nick slept peacefully for the short flight from JFK to Rochester. We arrived after 2 am due to all of the mouse delays and people shuffling. We were the last ones off the plane as I carried a very heavy sleeping Nick and placed him in his wheelchair. I hugged the pilot and said I cannot thank you enough for everything. He smiled and again said it was really no problem at all.

It was not a problem at all until we went to collect our luggage. During the pilots agreeing to swap flights, they had not informed the ground crew, so here 52 of us stood waiting for our luggage that was not showing up. The luggage on the conveyor belt was the entire luggage for the people traveling to Syracuse, which meant everyone’s luggage for Rochester, went to Syracuse instead. When someone had finally figured it out, I felt as if I had 100 eyeballs all looking in my direction. I kept apologizing to everyone and out of the 50 people, everyone said not to worry about it. Only one business class passenger seemed to be really upset. We all had to fill out lost luggage reports which took another hour, but JetBlue assured everyone their luggage would be personally delivered to them by 3pm the next day and everyone was given a $75.00 credit voucher for their airlines for the inconvenience.

Just one of the many reasons I always pick JetBlue as my first choice for air travel.

We made it home and were tucked into bed by 4:30 am. Nick with Mickey tucked safely in bed next to him and my last recollection was collapsing on my bed just trying to piece together the series of crazy but incredible  moments from a trip that made memories to last a lifetime.

So, thank you Disney for making Nick’s 16th birthday a year he will never forget. And a huge shout out thank you to the entire staff of JetBlue for going above and beyond to make my transition home as easy as possible.

That wraps up our incredible Disney adventure. Again, if anyone has any questions about Disney travel, feel free to contact me at Julie.kidscrusaders@gmail.com . I’m not a travel agent, just a well-seasoned traveler that can give you some of the ins and outs of navigating Disney, or airports!

Until next month, in closing, I would like to share a favorite quote that applies to this entire journey that we are on (not just our Disney trip.)

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” (Princess Diana)Nick and Julie

Peace, love and happiness. You are never alone on your journey!

Julie

Kids Crusaders Corner

Standard
This is Part 2 of Julie’s story.  Stay tuned for more in the next Kids Crusaders Logonewsetter. 

Welcome back Crusaders! Greetings from Upstate New York where we are currently a balmy -2 degrees with expected wind chills to hit all-time lows in the (negative) – 20’s tomorrow. Needless to say, we are buried under snow that looks like it won’t melt until November at which point winter can begin once again!

Nick with his micky mouse stuffed animal at Disney

Last month I left off with the first part of my solo trip to Disney with my son Nick. We had somehow managed to survive our pirate adventures and were about to embark on the rest of our day. So welcome back as I continue to magically relive the memories from a truly great trip.

Nick and I continued our journey through the Magic Kingdom. As the day progressed, transfers onto rides became easier, and Nick getting hugged by Winne the Pooheverything seemed to just flow without difficulty. The weather was beautiful, Nick was beyond happy and I was over the moon to be spending this time with him. We did his favorite rides, with Disney allowing him to stay on each ride for as many times as he wanted; to eliminate the need for me to keep transferring him and waiting again. It’s A Small World became extremely small with an all-time record (for us) of circling around 9 times. (While this made Nick extremely happy, I do not recommend doing this without a break as the catchy theme song will remain stuck in your head for many, many months in multiple languages.) We rode The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh 6 times consecutively (which I loved because he didn’t have to transfer out of his wheelchair and I happen to be a lifelong Pooh fan.) And a fairly new attraction (at least for our visit) was called Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. This was an interactive attraction in a theater like setting where you watched a screen with characters from the movie Monsters Inc. Featuring the great Sulley and Mike Wazowski, each show was adlibbed to joke around with the audience. One lucky (or unlucky, depending on your view) audience member was projected up onto the large screen and in good jest (Disney style) highlighted to be the brunt of all the jokes. The fun part of this attraction was that you could repeatedly sit through it (which we did 5 times before dinner and once after) and the jokes were never the same. It was always funny and always entertaining.

After our 5th time sitting through Monsters Inc., we headed towards the Crystal Palace to see if there was any remote possibility of getting a dinner reservation. This is a fine dining restaurant complete with characters (Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore) which usually requires advanced reservations up to 6 months in advance, which of course I had not done. I approached the hostess station and explained that I did not have reservations but was wondering if there was any possible way we could sneak in a reservation for 2. It was early in the evening and I thought there might be a chance. She apologized and said that there was not. A little disappointed, I turned Nick’s wheelchair around to leave when a manager approached me asking me if I had been taken care of. I Julie, Nick, and a giant Mickey Mouse stuffed animal.explained that I had; however, I had not made reservations as this was a surprise 16th birthday trip for my son. He asked me to wait for a few moments and then he returned. He said he would be happy to accommodate us for dinner if we could wait for just 10 minutes while they prepared a table. And the magic just kept getting more magical. Precisely 10 minutes later he asked me to follow him. As we turned a corner in the restaurant there was a table “prepared” for Nicks birthday, complete with balloons, streamers and Mickey Mouse confetti strewn all over the table. It was difficult to hold back the tears as I realized just how perfect this trip truly was. We enjoyed an amazing dinner, we had all of the characters sign a birthday card for Nick and dance at our table and then one of the waitresses asked Nick who his favorite character was. His answer, of course, was Mickey. The poor waitress looked shattered as she tried explaining to Nick that Mickey wasn’t at that restaurant that night. I reassured her we had been to the park many times and it was ok. As we were preparing to leave, a group of waitresses came around the corner to our table carrying a life sized stuffed Mickey. I thought this was so sweet that they went and got this to “show” Nick so he didn’t miss out on his favorite character. Oh, but I was so wrong. Before I could say anything, they asked Nick if he would like to HAVE Mickey for his birthday present. (Believe me and forgive me if I sound ungrateful, because I was not…I was just surprised that they didn’t bring a smaller, perhaps more easy to transport around birthday souvenir.) Nick immediately lit up and was laughing and waving his arms and legs out of sheer happiness. The mother at the table behind me started crying. The waitresses were crying and hugging me and I felt like crying because I couldn’t really wrap my head around how I was supposed to push Nick in his wheelchair, keep track of his belongings bag that was strapped to the back of his chair and somehow carry this life sized mouse around the park and back to the hotel by myself. But it was no doubt a magical moment. And just when I thought the magic couldn’t possibly get any more magical, the manager stopped me on the way out to ask how everything was. I hugged him and choked back my tears, still hugging this life sized mouse and said “thank you”. He said he had one more thing for Nick. He took out a large button that said Happy Birthday on the top and Walt Disney World on the bottom and a white space in the middle where he hand wrote in black sharpie marker Nick’s 16th. We pinned this on his chest harness and there was no missing it (precisely Disney’s point). What I didn’t know then, but was educated by hotel staff later that night, was that the pin was a way of alerting all cast members in the park that we were celebrating something special. And from the moment we left the restaurant, I was completely baffled by what happened next. Anywhere we walked, cast members came up and wished Nick a Happy Birthday. Cast vendors gave Nick so many things, from trading pins to light up wands, all free. By this point it was getting late and I wanted to get Nick back to the hotel with this giant mouse. Nick didn’t want to leave (why would he??) so we compromised and I allowed him to pick one more ride or attraction that he wanted to do and then we would leave. So, he picked Monsters Inc., again. I was pleased with his pick because it was relatively close to where we already were and I didn’t have to fight with the mouse. By this point I had strapped the mouse onto Nicks lap, tilted his wheelchair back so I could see where I was going and made our way to the attraction. The same cast members greeted us, and I assumed we would be sitting in the same wheelchair seating as before. Nope. This time we were stopped at the attraction and asked to wait. They let us in first but sat us in a center location which was also a wheelchair location. After the rest of the people were let into the theater, I sat back to just relax for a few moments and absorb everything that had just happened in the past hour. The lights dimmed and the show started. I was half paying attention as I was beyond exhausted. Sulley and Mike came on the screen telling some new jokes and Nick was laughing with the mouse still strapped on his lap. And just as I felt my eyes fluttering shut, the character voices yelled out “We have a special guest in the house tonight folks” (at which point my eyes jolted open and I thought, oh no, please no.)…they continued “everybody on the count of 3, please extend a big Happy 16th Birthday to Nick!!” (At which point the camera was on Nick and there he was, he and his life sized mouse, on the bigger than life screen for all to see.) Everyone in the theater yelled HAPPY BIRTHDAY NICK, which of course startled him. He was already flailing his arms and legs because he had seen himself on the screen. The startle response from the overwhelming wishes did him in. His wheelchair had already been tipped back at an angle so I could see to push it, so the flailing arms and startle response caused the wheelchair to tip completely over backwards so his feet were up in the air still wiggling away in laughter and I was ready to just cry. And the show didn’t stop. Sulley and Mike voiced over the screen “look at those happy birthday toes” as the camera was still rolling and all you could see on the screen were his feet (they were truly not helping the situation at this point.) People were immediately concerned but then realized he was fine and just laughing, so with the assistance of a few strong men we were able to get him upright again.

He laughed all the way back to the hotel. And everyone on the bus wished him a Happy Birthday which was a nice, quiet ending (or so I thought) to a perfect day. As we made our way through the hotel lobby, the cast members at the desk stopped us to ask how our day went. I recapped the highlights and they asked if we were going right to our room. I said we were stopping in the cafeteria to grab a drink and then heading straight to the room. It took less than 10 minutes to get from the cafeteria to the room. I noticed as I approached the room that all of the lights were on inside. As I opened the door, we found yet more Disney Magic. The bed was decorated with balloons and on the table were 2 cupcakes and a birthday card from the hotel staff. How they managed that in 10 minutes is still a mystery.

Nick was exhausted and more than happy to be in bed. I had the luxury of sleeping in the chair next to the bed because Nick’s new best friend, life sized Mickey, was next to him and there was no negotiating this with Nick. Fair enough. It was a magical, exhausting day from start to finish.

Nick smiling at the pool in Disney.

We spent the next day exploring Downtown Disney and enjoying some shopping before having an early dinner. We had one last evening dip in the pool before having to pack for our departure home the next day.

It was the best birthday ever and memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. But our story doesn’t end here. (Honestly, did you think it would???) Stay tuned until next month where I will share the adventures of trying to air travel with a life sized mouse…..(trust me you don’t want to miss it!)

Until next month, think Spring, hug the ones you love, reach out and do something kind for someone randomly and know that the little things you perceive in life can truly be forever big things in someone else’s life.

Live, laugh, love.

Julie

Disney World*****My Holiday vacation

Standard

By: Sharon Langer

Now that I am an active member of the DIG legal team, I view the world through a different lens. I find that I cannot visit a restaurant, a hotel or even Disney World without looking around to see if those places are universally accessible to all.

My trip over the holidays put a smile on my face for several reasons. First, I saw many folks in the park who were PWDs enjoying the fun, and they were able to navigate the parks and enjoy themselves. Second, the people around me seemed tolerant and helpful, and lastly, I also saw several employees of Disney who were PWDs.

I decided to follow up when I got home to see how Disney managed this. I went to their website and found a very helpful section which I will share with you. Go to The Disney World website and there is a HELP button right on top. There is a menu for Guests with Disabilities. They have a long list of services for those guests from a Disability Access Service Card to wheelchairs, electronic conveyance vehicles and special services in the hotels. Sign language interpretation is available, BUT plan ahead if you will be needing that service as there are minimum numbers of days of notice required.

For guests with cognitive disabilities there are also many options. Advanced ticket purchase to avoid the long wait in lines and rider switch, which enables you to experience an attraction while another member of your party waits with the guest who does not ride. Then you swap without waiting in line again. This is a bonus for the caregivers so everyone in the party can enjoy the park.

There are many more services available, so if you are going and need that extra bit of help, consult this very comprehensive website. I was heartened to see a diverse group of people enjoying this Florida treasure.

Kids Crusaders Corner

Standard
This is Part 1 of Julie’s story.  Stay tuned for more in the next Kids Crusaders Logonewsetter. 

Happy New Year everyone! We are off to a chilly start here in upstate New York with temperatures hovering at -8 degrees (not counting the wind chills). So to warm things up a little, I thought I would share with you a special memory that I have from warmer climates.

When my son Nick turned 16 years old, I surprised him with a trip to Disney for 3 nights and 4 days. This was a “mom and me” trip (which I continued the tradition for my other 2 kids when they turned 16 as well, only they chose New York City!) It took me 7 hours to assemble and hand pipe frost the JetBlue airplane cake (with the help of my husband) which we used to surprise Nick with at his party. (I almost wanted to cry when it came time to serve the cake, as cousins were requesting a wing; someone wanted the cockpit, and then the tail piece. It was twisted humor when my husband yelled out to the remaining adults still unserved, “ok, who wants some of the fuselage?”)Nick with his16th  birthday cake.  The cake is in the shape of a JetBlue airplane.

So, 2 weeks after the party, Nick and I were on our way to do Disney. Everyone thought I was insane for attempting a trip like this solo, and I have to admit there were a few times during the trip where I questioned my sanity as well. But looking back, despite some of the little (and somewhat potential major) situations we encountered, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for the memories that we made.

We arrived in Orlando and boarded one of Disney’s transportation buses to our hotel. I figured with traveling alone it would be best to stay on Disney property and not rent a vehicle. From the beginning phases of planning this trip, all the way throughout the trip and even a follow up phone call upon our return, I have to say that Disney pulled out all stops to make this trip not only Magical for us but also relatively easy to execute.

The “cast member” that assisted me with my hotel reservations suggested that we stay at The Pop Century Resort because it was the last bus stop in the transportation line prior to getting to the Nick next to a skeleton at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney.Magic Kingdom and there was also a separate bus line from the hotel that went directly to Downtown Disney. This was extremely helpful because it decreased a lot of wait time of stopping at multiple hotels to pick up other guests. She also made sure that we had a first floor room with outside door access which was close to both the lobby and the swimming pool.

I let Nick choose which Disney theme park he wanted to go to and he chose the Magic Kingdom. We spent the first day resting and just getting acquainted with the hotel grounds, the pool, and planning our day at the park. We had been to Disney before, many times as a family, but this would be the true test of their “magic”. Traveling alone with a child in a wheelchair, having to do single person transfers when on a good day it required two, and navigating the crowds, attractions and meals unassisted, became almost a personal mission. I was determined that this was going to be the birthday of all birthdays to remember. And Disney, true to their reputation, made it beyond “magical.”Nick with a Disney hat on with mickey ears and a pirate scarf.

We arrived and made our way down Main Street, heading towards the castle. I knew which rides and attractions would be Nick’s favorites so I had mapped out our day accordingly. (Keep in mind that this trip was almost 8 years ago. At the time, Disney was still utilizing the Guest Assistance Card for people that requested it upon entrance to the park for easier access to rides/attractions due to a disability. This truly made my solo trip with Nick extremely easy, and I’m grateful that it was available when we traveled. They have subsequently changed over to a new system known as the DAS, or Disability Access Service Card. I cannot compare the differences between the two as I have not returned since the new system was put into place. “The DAS Card is designed accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). A DAS Card will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations and will offer guests a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. As soon as the Guest finishes one attraction, they can receive a return time for another.” In contrast, the older system that we used allowed us to access each attraction as we got to it, without the wait time, often using the Fast Pass entrances or sometimes alternate entrances that would easily accommodate the wheelchair. The older system worked great for us because Nick has difficulty tolerating crowds and excessive heat. I will add that, sadly enough, I witnessed firsthand people abusing this system, which was part of what prompted Disney to change their policy.)

So, the first few minutes I had to negotiate with Nick about a certain attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean. They had just redone this attraction to include a cameo of Johnny Depp and I really wanted to go on it. Nick really didn’t, but after I promised him everything in Disney I could think of, he agreed. This attraction is a boat ride that takes you through different pirate scenes. It was the first challenge of the day because it required me to transfer Nick out of his wheelchair and place him down into a boat and then get in next to him and fully support him during the ride. The cast members informed me the ride ended in a different location and that they would make sure his wheelchair was waiting at the exit of the ride, which it was. They also informed me it was a “timed” exit and there were no cast members at the exit. Basically what that meant to me was that once the boat stopped, you had a set amount of time to exit before it would begin moving again. The ride came to a stop and his wheelchair was exactly where they said it would be. We were seated alone in the last row of the boat. All of the other rows exited fairly quickly but I knew I still had time. I got out of the boat and reached in to pull Nick up and out onto the wooden planks. I began pulling him but soon noticed he wasn’t moving. His foot was stuck under the seat in front of where we had been sitting. Knowing my time was running out I tried reasoning with Nick to turn his foot so I could get him out. This just caused him to tense up more. It was at that very moment the time was up and the boat started to slowly move forward. I glanced ahead and took note that I had 4 handrails I had to hurdle over and about 4 feet of extra plank before I would hit water. I frantically jumped each rail while he continued to laugh and get further wedged. His laughter must have caught the attention of the guy that had been in the seat in front of us, because out of nowhere he appeared and launched himself back into the moving boat, as I continued to clear hurdles, and dislodged Nick’s foot. I had just cleared the last hurdle handrail when he yelled to me, “I’ve got him, now what?” I yelled back “Either duck or jump!!!” (because the boat was to circle back around but under a WALL). He opted to jump. He jumped off the back of the boat just as it left the unloading area with Nick safely in his arms. However, the impact of him landing on the plank deck with Nick in his arms caused him to crash into me. I fell, he fell with Nick who landed on top of me and he was on top of Nick. My right arm was IN THE WATER. Nick was laughing so hard it actually sounded like he was screaming in pain, which was causing me to just lay there and laugh and our poor stranger superman was on top of Nick not really knowing what he should do. So he asked me, “now what?” I said “whatever you do, do it slowly. Do NOT roll to the right because we will all be swimming and whatever you do watch out because the next boat is coming. “We opted to lay in our human sandwich pile until the next boat came to a stop. I can only imagine what the people on that boat must have been thinking when they saw this. Some offered to help, but the fear was with any additional help, we would still end up in the water. So I simply, through tears of hysterical laughter said “No thanks, we’ve got this. You have to pay extra for this attraction so keep moving please.” This caused my personal superman to laugh. Once that crowd cleared out, we carefully rolled to the left, one at a time. The 3 of us lay on the floor still laughing, because seriously, what else could we do? We finally managed to collect our silly selves and get Nick up off the floor and buckled back in his wheelchair. “Superman” asked me if I was ok and asked if I was traveling alone with Nick. After explaining that I was, he kindly offered to have us join his group and do the park together so that I would have help. As kind as that was, I declined, because the whole idea of traveling with Nick alone was the “adventure”. And the adventure had just begun!!

And just as you can’t cover all of Disney in one day, I cannot even begin to do justice to this adventure in just one article….so please stay tuned until next month when I will continue to share all of the “magic” that we experienced.

If anyone has any questions about traveling to Disney, I would be glad to try to answer them. You can contact me at Julie.kidscrusaders@gmail.com